by City Manager Ken Striplin
The Real Story Behind Year-End Crime Stats
You can’t have a discussion about crime stats in the Santa Clarita Valley without taking into account Assembly Bill 109 and Propositions 47 and 57. These recent initiatives were intended to reduce the state prison population; but at what cost to the safety of our communities? We now have prisoners who were convicted for domestic violence, human trafficking, assault with a deadly weapon and other violent crimes, being released back into communities throughout California.
Since Prop 47 passed in 2014, 54,213 criminals in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s jurisdiction alone have been arrested, released and committed additional crimes. Some of these criminals have even been arrested multiple times for the same offense. The percentage of Prop 47 offenders now classified as repeat offenders is 68%. Of that, 42% were arrested for a Part 1 Crime, which includes, among other things, homicide, rape, robbery, assault and arson. To put into perspective what our sheriff’s deputies are going through, one of these repeat offenders has now been arrested 81 times since being released early from prison following the passage of Prop 47.
Santa Clarita has not been immune to the negative impacts of these initiatives. Apart from a spike in the crime rate from 2014 to 2016 in Santa Clarita, just a few months ago, one of our very own Santa Clarita sheriff’s deputies was rushed to the hospital after being shot in the neck by a criminal, who was a beneficiary of these recent initiatives and a parolee in Santa Clarita after being released early from prison. On November 28, 2017, parolee Monolito Alexander Guerra opened fire on sheriff’s deputies on Bottletree Lane. He had originally been arrested on October 15, 2014, and was sentenced to prison on February 2, 2016. He was serving a five-year prison term for evading arrest, a four-year prison term for a secondary charge of evading arrest and an eight-month prison term for assault with a deadly weapon when he was paroled in our City on October 19, 2017. Only 40 days after being released three and a half years early from prison, this dangerous parolee attempted to take the life of one of our own deputies during his response to a call for service.
This story underscores the reality deputies are encountering in our community and all across the state. These criminals are feeling emboldened. The fear of being arrested and serving full prison sentences has been significantly reduced because of AB 109 and Propositions 47 and 57, and criminals are armed with that knowledge.
Even with these obstacles, through a great partnership with the Sheriff’s Department, we are still making great strides to keep our community safe and maintain our reputation as one of the safest cities to live in. Since our new Sheriff’s Captain, Robert Lewis came on board in April 2017, our deputies have made notable progress in bringing crime statistics down. When Captain Lewis took the reins, crime in our City was up 16% over 2016 stats. He has worked hard on crime reduction strategies with the team at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, efforts which were noticed almost immediately. By the end of 2017, Captain Lewis and his team reduced the increase in crime to only 2% and crime is now down 22% thus far in 2018. Through relentless hard work and dedication by the deputies at our local Sheriff’s Station, projections show crime rates will continue on a downward trend.
Our City of Santa Clarita continues to earn top marks as one of the safest communities in the state and in the nation. We are thankful to our men and women of the Sheriff’s Department who protect our community every day – even more so now with the additional challenges legislation has created for them.
However, there is more to be done and it will take a collective effort by the City, the Sheriff’s Department and the entire community to create the change needed to reverse the negative impacts of these initiatives. Recently, the Santa Clarita City Council took action to support the Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018. This initiative proposes to amend the State Constitution to, among other things, increase penalties for certain theft-related crimes and hopefully restore the balance in our public safety system. More information can be found on the Keep California Safe website at https://keepcalsafe.org/. I encourage all residents to stay informed and educated on these initiatives so that we, as a community, can continue to protect our families and the overall quality of life here in Santa Clarita.
City Manager Ken Striplin can be reached at Kstriplin@santa-clarita.com